Interview with Eraldo Bernocchi (January 201
Photos by Michele Turriani.
When did you start playing the guitar and why?
I was 13 and discovered Kiss, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. Then metal and punk came and I was even more into learning how to play. I wanted to be in a rock band, I guess it is what 80% of teens dreamed of. I started to play with friends, we were covering our favorite bands, Sex Pistols, Damned, Clash, Motorhead. Then we started to write our own tunes. I got bored quite soon to be honest, I don’t like to play over and over the same thing every time and I was suspecting the guitar could have been a more interesting instrument in terms of sound generation.
What is your musical background and your main musical influences?
I listened to everything, I still do. From hip pop to grind core, from dub to techno to jazz to ambient to noise. Everything as long theres ’s a soul and feeling in it. As I said, i started with Sabbath and Pink Floyd but quick enlarged my views to Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, punk and metal. And when Discharge appeared my life totally changed, that was my idea of being in a band and how a rock guitar should sound. I am self taught, I have limits because of it so I was forced to write my own vocabulary when it comes to harmony and theory. It’s something that constantly mutates. It’s difficult for me to cite musical influences, I guess I am a melting pot of everything I listened and met during my life. If I must think about names well…Black Sabbath, Can, Coil, Eno, Budd, Slayer, Public Enemy, Bill Laswell, Miles Davis, Napalm Death, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk. I could go on for pages…
What kind of guitar do you play and what effects and pedals?
I had many guitars, like all guitar players. We tend to be nerds on this, we buy and sell, modify, customise etc etc. in the end I’m mainly using two guitars. A Les paul Standard from 1981 and a baritone Nude Guitar with aluminium neck. These guitars are handcrafted in Florence one by one by a wizard named Gabriele Fabbri. He built me a baritone one as I love the deepness of down tuning. It sounds enormous yes all nuances are clearly outlined. Aluminium is such a fantastic material. I’m basically playing and recording with these two instruments. As far as pedals after decades of buying and selling I found those that fit for me. Strymon reverbs and delays, Eventide reverbs. Digitech Drop to down tune the already down tuned baritone…just in case. AMT valve preamps. EH Superego for drones, Pigtronix Infinity looper. I use these pedals also for my electronics live sets. In a studio environment I chose a Kemper profiler. It’s really useful especially considering the many project I have. I can switch from one to another in a snap and I like to “steal” amp profiles in other studios by profiling amps, especially old ones. Live I prefer to be light and to carry everything at all time with me.
You are the co-founder of RareNoiseRecords. What’s the story of this indipendent label?
In 2007 Giacomo Bruzzo contacted me because he had the project to shot a documentary on my music. We met, he shot a lot of material. We became friends and at some point he proposed me to create a label with him. At first I thought it was a crazy idea as labels were closing one after the other but in the end I loved it as we could create something different, something with no limits or boundaries but with a solid transversal vision of sound and music. RareNoise started like this and became really important for both of us. I am not working on a regular basis in RN, I made clear to Giacomo that for me, considering all the connections I have with artists, would have been dangerous to be a label manager and an artist at the same time. Misunderstandings and expectations are a blink away when you have a label, and it actually happened anyway… I advise Giacomo on projects, he has his favourites, I have mine. He proposes new things I do the same, we evaluate pros and cons but in the end, for the aforementioned reasons, I leave every decision to him. It’s a good system to avoid relationship problems and a have a flowing exchange of ideas. The label grew a lot in the last years and we are finally harvesting results.
How did start the idea behind your last record “Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It”?
Michele and Andrea contacted me last year proposing the soundtrack for the documentary. I was honoured and I sent them some ideas and themes. I mainly worked on treating guitars as a starting point. I wanted to transmit the concept of memories and feelings gone but not forever. Like a love still resonating in the air. That has been my starting point and from there I developed themes for piano and guitar. I considered the guitar as a possible orchestra, adding harmonies after singing them in my head or aloud, treating the guitar sound up to the level of becoming something else. 80% of the album is guitars.
What does mean improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talking about improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc.?
It’s an important part of my story. I’ve always been interested in the option of derailments, I guess it explains why I’m constantly balancing my work between electronics and guitars, noise and ambient, heavy doom and soft themes. I love to improvise, and through improvisation I often find my way and themes. I have no idea if a classic environment could welcome improvisation, I suspect no but then, again, I have no academic skills to correctly evaluate this point, but jazz, rock and contemporary for sure. Even these genres are limited to my ears, I tend to consider music as “corpus”, a whole body, a mutant creature who swallows and reprocesses the surrounding environment. Under this light improvisation is part of the process, it’s the scouting device to find a path, at least for me. I need it when I play live, even if I’m on stage with one of my more rock oriented projects like Obake or Metallic Taste Of Blood. I need to have parts where the whole band improvise, even 16 bars but it’s a necessity of freedom.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
It would be tempting to affirm that error doesn’t exist. Miles once said that there are no mistakes. I like to think sometimes they exist, and they’re more than welcome. Working a lot with electronics and coming from a generation of “hands on” machines error has been a brother since day one, and still is. What fascinated me since the beginning is that when you repeat and error the root concept void itself. I mean: repeat a wrong chord on stage for 5 minute and that cycle will be perceived as something part fo the tune, even better if you’re on stage with like minded players that “wrongness” will 90% become a new track thanks to the power of improvisation and a common instinct vision. So, yes, error is a lovely occurrence and a teacher. It breaks mental schemes and let you approach music, or creation in general, from a different angle or a point.
And what do you think is the “function” of a moment of crisis?
A necessity. Sometimes you’re lost in a place where all ideas are stuck, there’s nothing you like. Creativity is reaching zero, you’re bored, scorned ad upset. But…this is a moment to treasure. I used to hate these moments, they seemed to me an endless waste of time and energies. Getting older I learned that we need space to create. Space is fundamental. When I’m stuck, and believe me it happens…especially when I’m near a deadline as I’m never happy with sounds and mixes, I just leave the studio, the flat. I walk, go to see a museum, take photos (my second passion), meet people. I try my best to forget music and sound. When I come back things are usually different, there’s less stress and anger and the flow is back.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
Theres’ a new Blackwood EP coming out in february. It’s heavier than the last album and features two female singers, Stefania Alos Pedretti from OVO and Emilia Moncayo from Minipony. I’m finishing the third chapter of Equations Of Eternity with Bill Laswell, mixing the first album with bass clarinet player Gareth Davis, it’s really cinematic. Guitars and bass clarinet in massive spaces with a lot of emotion. I’m quite there with an album of Fm synthesis with Ken Ikeda, the japanese electronics artist. I’m working on a duo with Markus Reuter from Stickmen, a duo with KK Null, the second album with ambient guitar marvel Chihei Hatakeyama. We are also starting to plan the new Sigillum S album. Supervøid , a quartet with XABIER Iriondo from Afterhours, Jacopo Pierazzuoli (Obake/Morkobot) and a still secret fourth member. It’s heavy but with a lot of feeling. Lynch meets Wenders in a cellar with Iommi. Something like this. Plus music for adverts and documentaries. There is a new duo with the fantastic electronic artist Nadia Struiwigh. a lot more coming up, some projects I can’t talk right now.
Last question: a few years ago, during an interview with Bill Milkowski for his book “Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries” Carlos Santana said, “Some people have talent, some people have vision. And vision is more important then talent, obviously.” I think all of you have a great talent, but … what is your personal vision?
I didn’t know about this sentence, I agree. I realised I needed up working with artists who have a very similar approach, who tend to see creativity and music under a “vision” light. Many of them are also amazing talents but that’s another story. I composed music with unskilled people who have such a vision in music that talent is not necessary, or it’s the icing on the cake.
I totally agree and have the very same approach. Talent without Vision is quite pointless, at least for me.